Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jesus was not polite to false teachers...

Many Christians today are greatly concerned about the rising influences of communism, humanism, secularism, and social injustice. Yet those evils, great as they are, do not together pose the threat to Christianity that false shepherds and pastors do. Throughout the history of redemption, the greatest threat to God’s truth and God’s work has been false prophets and teachers, because they propose to speak in His name. That is why the Lord’s most scathing denunciations were reserved for the false teachers of Israel, who claimed to speak and act for God but were liars.

Yet for some reason, evangelical Christianity is often hesitant to confront false teachers with the seriousness and severity that Jesus and the apostles did, and that the godly prophets before them had done. Today, more than at any time in modern history and perhaps more than at any time in the history of the church, pagan religions and cults are seriously encroaching on societies that for centuries have been nominally Christian. Even within the church, many ideas, teachings, and philosophies that are little more than thinly veiled paganism have become popular and influential.

As in ancient Israel, the further God’s people move away from the foundation of His Word, the more false religion flourishes in the world and even in their own midst. At no time have Christians had greater need to be discerning. They need to recognize and respect true godly shepherds who feed them God’s Word and build them up in the faith, and they also must recognize and denounce those who twist and undermine God’s Word, who corrupt the church and who lead lost people still further away from God’s truth and from salvation.
- John MacArthur (online source)

The Gospel and Homosexuality

Al Mohler has written an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. Not surprisingly, Dr. Mohler clearly communicates God's standard on sexual ethics revealed in the Bible. There is no moral squishiness here.

We believe that God has revealed a pattern for human sexuality that not only points the way to holiness, but to true happiness.

Thus we cannot accept the seductive arguments that the liberal churches so readily adopt. The fact that same-sex marriage is a now a legal reality in several states means that we must further stipulate that we are bound by scripture to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman—and nothing else.

We do so knowing that most Americans once shared the same moral assumptions, but that a new world is coming fast. We do not have to read the polls and surveys; all we need to do is to talk to our neighbors or listen to the cultural chatter.

In this most awkward cultural predicament, evangelicals must be excruciatingly clear that we do not speak about the sinfulness of homosexuality as if we have no sin. As a matter of fact, it is precisely because we have come to know ourselves as sinners and of our need for a savior that we have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Our greatest fear is not that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted, but that homosexuals will not come to know of their own need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins.

This is not a concern that is easily expressed in sound bites. But it is what we truly believe.
But Dr. Mohler's primary point is not to prove that homosexuality is a sin. It clearly is. Mohler's main objective is to challenge Christians to see homosexuality as an issue to be addressed by the Gospel.

It is now abundantly clear that evangelicals have failed in so many ways to meet this challenge. We have often spoken about homosexuality in ways that are crude and simplistic. We have failed to take account of how tenaciously sexuality comes to define us as human beings. We have failed to see the challenge of homosexuality as a Gospel issue. We are the ones, after all, who are supposed to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy for sin, starting with our own.

We have demonstrated our own form of homophobia—not in the way that activists have used that word, but in the sense that we have been afraid to face this issue where it is most difficult . . . face to face.

My hope is that evangelicals are ready now to take on this challenge in a new and more faithful way. We really have no choice, for we are talking about our own brothers and sisters, our own friends and neighbors, or maybe the young person in the next pew.

There is no escaping the fact that we are living in the midst of a moral revolution. And yet, it is not the world around us that is being tested, so much as the believing church. We are about to find out just how much we believe the Gospel we so eagerly preach.

John Piper on Same-Sex Marriage

John Piper has weighed in with some worthwhile thoughts on same-sex marriage and the recent New York law endorsing the practice.

Piper calls it a "calamity" and "an assault on God and His image in man."

On June 24 the New York legislature approved a Marriage Equality Act. This makes New York the sixth state where so-called homosexual marriages will be institutionalized: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, (and the District of Columbia).

My sense is that we do not realize what a calamity is happening around us. The new thing—new for America, and new for history—is not homosexuality. That brokenness has been here since we were all broken in the fall of man. (And there is a great distinction between the orientation and the act—just like there is a great difference between my orientation to pride and the act of boasting.)

What’s new is not even the celebration of homosexual sin. Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity.

My main reason for writing is not to mount a political counter-assault. I don’t think that is the calling of the church as such. My reason for writing is to help the church feel the sorrow of these days. And the magnitude of the assault on God and his image in man.

Christians, more clearly than others can see the tidal wave of pain that is on the way. Sin carries in it its own misery: “Men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27).

And on top of sin’s self-destructive power comes, eventually, the wrath of God: “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached a message entitled "We Have This Ministry" taken from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Is Marriage (as traditionally defined) worth protecting?

Take time to read this excellent article entitled Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles.

Al Mohler on New York's "Moral Revolution"

Dr. Mohler writes:

One of the lessons learned in this sad spectacle is the fact that enough Republican senators changed their positions on the issue under intense pressure, thus enabling the passage of the legislation. The same was true for the minority of Democratic senators who had previously voted against the measure. One of these, Carl Kruger, changed his vote because the nephew of the woman Kruger lives with was so outraged over the issue that he had cut the couple off from an ongoing relationship. “I don’t need this,” the Senator told a colleague, “It has gotten personal now.”

Well, of course it has. But what this statement really means is that many Americans, including many in the political class, simply fold their moral convictions when they conflict with the lifestyles or convictions of a friend or relative.

Thus far, whenever the people of a state have had their say, marriage has been defended as the union of a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage has been made legal by courts (such as in Iowa and Massachusetts) and by legislatures in some northeastern states. If current trends continue, the American map of marriage will reveal a deep and consequential division between states which recognize same-sex marriage and those who do not.

Given the central importance of marriage to our civilization and culture, it is hard to imagine how such a mixed moral landscape can last. Add to this the fact that President Obama has instructed his own Attorney General not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in courts.

In the end, it is difficult to know how one can exaggerate the importance of New York’s shift on marriage. New York is not merely a highly populous state — it also includes the nation’s most significant city in terms of economics, business, and cultural influence.

The legalization of same-sex marriage represents nothing less than a moral revolution, for what the law allows and recognizes, it also approves. Last Friday was a sad day for marriage and, if the advocates of same-sex marriage are right, it was also a sign of things to come.

Read the entire post HERE.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prophets in our Pulpits...

The Church at this moment needs men, the right kind of men, bold men… We languish for men who feel themselves expendable in the warfare of the soul, who cannot be frightened by threats of death because they have already died to the allurements of this world.

Such men will be free from the compulsions that control weaker men. They will not be forced to do things by the squeeze of circumstances; their only compulsion will come from within–or from above.

This kind of freedom is necessary if we are to have prophets in our pulpits again instead of mascots. These free men will serve God and mankind from motives too high to be understood by the rank and file of religious retainers who today shuttle in and out of the sanctuary.

They will make no decisions out of fear, take no course out of a desire to please, accept no service for financial considerations, perform no religious act out of mere custom; nor will they allow themselves to be influenced by the love of publicity or the desire for reputation.
A.W. Tozer, from Of God and Men, 11-13.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What's wrong with evangelicalism?

In a recent interview Phil Johnson was asked, "What is the biggest problem facing evangelicalism today and how should we respond?"

Johnson answers:

The greatest problem I see is the ever-broadening boundary of the evangelical movement and (corresponding to that) the increasingly ambiguous definition of evangelicalism. Evangelicals are too concerned with gaining collective clout and publicity and not concerned enough with being evangelical (being faithful to the gospel). Many of evangelicalism's most visible and popular leaders and institutions—including evangelicalism's self-styled "house organ," Christianity Today magazine—have been tearing down evangelical boundaries instead of guarding them. Consequently, a host of dangerous influences have infiltrated the evangelical movement and people in the pews don't see the danger, because it's considered impolite to be critical of a fellow "evangelical." In an era where everyone from Benny Hinn to Brian McLaren wears the evangelical label, it is sheer folly to be so blithely accepting of everything and everyone who claims to be evangelical. That attitude has already ruined the evangelical testimony and done much to render the evangelical movement spiritually impotent.

How should we respond? We need to recover our love of the truth, our courage in standing for it, and our will to defend it.

Floundering to Sodom

New York is the latest state to approve same-sex marriage. That makes the Empire State the sixth and largest state to approve of the practice.

Make no mistake, these are defining moments for the United States. As marriage goes, so goes the culture. Marriage has a very particular meaning. By its very nature marriage is between a man and woman. Procreation and the stabilizing of societal norms are fundamental to marriage.

Certainly we ought to reject all notions of theocracy. God's kingdom will not be established in this dying era. The state cannot be the church. We can even debate the propriety of laws banning homosexual acts. However, the state must never put itself in the position of approving that which God has condemned.

The Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is an abomination. It is a sin that characterizes a people in the final death throes of moral and societal decay. It is a sin that is particularly degrading to our identity as those who are made in the image of God. It reeks havoc upon the offender physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Homosexuality is the evidence of a people who have been given over to a wicked mind (Romans 1:18ff).

Granting that the state is not the church, the civil magistrate is nevertheless provided by God for the purpose of ordering society and suppressing evil (Rom 13). In this way God provides common grace to believer and unbeliever alike. It is therefore a frightening reality when the state becomes blind to obvious evil and even celebrates wickedness.

The following are a few articles that are helpful in the same-sex marriage debate:

What is Marriage? by George, Girgis, and Anderson

The Abolition of Marriage by Christopher Wolfe

So, What's Really At Stake in the Gay Marriage Debate? Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 by Al Mohler

What makes an evangelical?

From Carl Trueman:

[Evangelicalism] seems less sure of its identity than at any point in its history. I never cease to be shocked by how little I have in common with many others in the United Kingdom who now claim the name evangelical. One can deny that God knows the future, one can deny that the Bible is inspired, one can deny that justification is by grace through faith, one can deny that Christ is the only way to salvation - one can do all of these things and still remain a member in good standing of certain high-profile evangelical bodies.

The confusion such a situation represents indicates both the doctrinal and, perhaps more importantly, the moral void that lies at the heart of so much...evangelicalism at this time, when few if any are willing to take the difficult decision to stand firm on the non-negotiable aspects of the faith. We desperately need a deeper grasp of the importance of these issues if we are not to sell our heritage for a pot of stew.
From Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Friday, June 24, 2011

Spot On...

Good Theology Glorifies God

From Kevin DeYoung:

John 16:12-15

He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (v. 14)

If last week we looked at the importance of following Jesus with more than words, today we look at how our words about Jesus still matter. The work of the Holy Spirit is to take “what is mine”–who Jesus is and what he has done–and declare it to us.

In other words, speaking good theology glorifies God. Sometimes people say “I’m into the person of Jesus, not propositions about Jesus.” This sounds pious, but how can we have one without the other? Is your wife honored when you profess undying love for her, but describe her as a tall, blonde when she’s really a short brunette? How can you make much of God if you cannot tell me who he is? How can you magnify his character if there is no definition to it? How can you honor his worth if you don’t know why he’s worthy?

Don’t buy the “deeds not creeds” mantra. Truth matters. God does not get glory by our being uncertain and ambiguous about who he is, what he has done, and why is supremely valuable. God gets glory when we lovingly and truthfully declare theological, propositional truths about his internal excellencies, his saving work, and the weight of his glory.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

For pastors who feel like quiting...

Not long ago John Piper posted a journal entry from 1986 after just six years as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. It is a warning that we not follow our emotions (or our heart). As a man who is easily discouraged, this is good for me to read and read again:

Am I under attack by Satan to abandon my post at Bethlehem? Or is this the stirring of God to cause me to consider another ministry? Or is this God's way of answering so many prayers recently that we must go a different way at BBC than building? I simply loathe the thought of leading the church through a building program. For two years I have met for hundreds of hours on committees. I have never written a poem about it. It is deadening to my soul. I am a thinker. A writer. A preacher. A poet and songwriter. At least these are the avenues of love and service where my heart flourishes. . . .

Can I be the pastor of a church moving through a building program? Yes, by dint of massive will power and some clear indications from God that this is the path of greatest joy in him long term. But now I feel very much without those indications. The last two years (the long range planning committee was started in August 1984) have left me feeling very empty.

The church is looking for a vision for the future—and I do not have it. The one vision that the staff zeroed in on during our retreat Monday and Tuesday of this week (namely, building a sanctuary) is so unattractive to me today that I do not see how I could provide the leadership and inspiration for it.

Does this mean that my time at BBC is over? Does it mean that there is a radical alternative unforeseen? Does it mean that I am simply in the pits today and unable to feel the beauty and power and joy and fruitfulness of an expanded facility and ministry?

O Lord, have mercy on me. I am so discouraged. I am so blank. I feel like there are opponents on every hand, even when I know that most of my people are for me. I am so blind to the future of the church. O Father, am I blind because it is not my future? Perhaps I shall not even live out the year, and you are sparing the church the added burden of a future I had made and could not complete? I do not doubt for a moment your goodness of power or omnipotence in my life or in the life of the church. I confess that the problem is mine. The weakness is in me. The blindness is in my eyes. The sin—O reveal to me my hidden faults!—is mine and mine the blame. Have mercy, Father. Have mercy on me. I must preach on Sunday, and I can scarcely lift my head.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Misunderstanding the Gospel

What are some misunderstandings people have about the Gospel? from Crossway on Vimeo.

What exactly is a Christian?

Mike McKinley's new book Am I Really a Christian seeks to answer that question. Take some time to check out the website for the book.

Mike grew up at the church I serve as pastor. He is a pastor and writes regularly at the 9 Marks Blog.

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached a message entitled "Grace: Radically Free" taken from Luke 23:32-43. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Protecting our daughters from a sexualized culture...

Owen Strachan has written a helpful article on the parental (fatherly) responsibility to help our daughters be clothed in beautiful modesty. This is not merely a cultural issue. It is not about being liberal or conservative. It is not about holding to an antiquated Victorian ideal. Guarding the purity of our daughters from a hyper-sexualized culture is deeply theological. Just as Christ is working to present his church to himself as a pure and beautiful bride, so too fathers are to guard the purity of their daughters.

Strachan writes:

Every parent possesses an inherent drive to care for their child. They know that it is right to protect their offspring, whether from the wind and rain or the pedophile and pornographer. Yet because of sin, we naturally fail. The failure of fathers to care for their daughters pops up throughout Scripture. When threatened by the men of Sodom, Lot offered his two daughters to a bloodthirsty mob and is stopped only by the intervention of angels (Gen. 19:1-11). In a stunning repeat of the Sodom incident, the man hosting an unnamed Levite offers drunken "worthless fellows" his virgin daughter along with the Levite's concubine (Judges 19). In one of the most horrifying scenes in Scripture, the Levite finds the concubine dead and cuts her body up, then sends the pieces to all corners of Israel. His abdication of fatherly responsibility, realized in a flash of grief, signifies that darkness has descended upon the nation.

Wearing tight pink sweatpants and push-up bras is not the same as sacrifice, but the two proceed from the same devilish idea. The contextual outworking of the problem causes the same reaction. As we watch the culture train tiny girls to be princesses, princesses to be hot girls, and hot girls to be sexual aggressors, we gasp at such a trajectory. This is not indulging in prudery. That exhalation of breath? It's a profoundly theological response to the effects of sin. The first and most basic of parental duties is to protect one's children in a physical and especially a spiritual sense (Eph. 6:4). This involves training little girls to be modest and chaste, and to exude Christocentric virtue, not to be forward and promiscuous. If these ideals sound Victorian, antiquated to modern ears, they are actually much more historical (see 1 Tim. 2:9-10).

There is another type of father in Scripture besides the wicked men mentioned above. This father finds a little girl dying in the wilderness, crying with no one to hear. He gathers her in his arms and nurses her to health. He clothes her in beauty as she grows, celebrating her womanhood. Because of his protection and care, she flourishes. This father is the Lord God, and his daughter is Jerusalem (Ezek. 16). The text details the faithlessness of God's people and bears first on that biblical-theological matter, but it also gives us a window into how we are to raise our daughters. Our heavenly Father's strength, tenderness, and compassion direct our care for our own little girls, and we desire their flourishing for the glory of Christ as he desires the health of his people.

Read the entire article HERE.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Emergent Woodstock?

The Emergent movement is desperately trying to stay alive and relevant. Of course, in one sense they will always be with us for error and heresy have always been with the church. Next week a plethora of emergent leaders and former evangelicals will gather for a festival in North Carolina. The gathering is called The Wild Goose Festival.

Here is how the organizers describe the event:
“The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. We are followers of Jesus creating a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation.”

What a strange revision of both history and Christianity to say that it is part of the Christian tradition to embrace all religious beliefs and sexual practices.

The line-up of speakers will feature: Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Tony Jones, Tony Campolo, Phyllis Tickle, Shane Claiborne, Frank Schaeffer, Lynn Hybels, and many more. Clearly, the message coming from the Wild Goose Festival will be confusing at best, heretical at worst. Among the errors of the emergent movement is the denial of the substitutionary atonement, the uniqueness of Christ, the necessity of faith, the doctrine of hell, etc. It is now characteristic of emergents to reject biblical sexual ethics as well. This is an important connection because sexual perversion tends to grow in the garden of theological liberalism.

Wild Goose Festival - June 23 - 26, 2011 - Shakori Hills Farm, NC from Wild Goose on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

John Piper at the SBC

ASPIRE Msg: John Piper from Hope Baptist Church, Las Vegas on Vimeo.

SBC Pastor's Conference

The SBC is posting video of the messages from the Pastor's Conference this week.

Below is the messages from Darrin Patrick. I attended college and seminary with Darrin. Darrin is the pastor of Journey Church in St. Louis.

ASPIRE Msg: Darrin Patrick from Hope Baptist Church, Las Vegas on Vimeo.

Southern Baptists and the New NIV

As some of you know, the translators and publisher of the new NIV Bible translation decided to use gender-neutral language. The problem is that it is impossible to do that without changing the words of Scripture and, in some cases, the very meaning.

The Southern Baptist Convention which met this week in Phoenix passed a resolution regarding the latest edition of the NIV. This will have an impact not least of all because the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination.

The resolution states:

WHEREAS, Many Southern Baptist pastors and laypeople have trusted and used the 1984 New International Version (NIV) translation to the great benefit of the Kingdom; and

WHEREAS, Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House are publishing an updated version of the New International Version (NIV) which incorporates gender neutral methods of translation; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists repeatedly have affirmed our commitment to the full inspiration and authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-16) and, in 1997, urged every Bible publisher and translation group to resist “gender-neutral” translation of Scripture; and

WHEREAS, This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language; and

WHEREAS, Although it is possible for Bible scholars to disagree about translation methods or which English words best translate the original languages, the 2011 NIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards; and

WHEREAS, Seventy-five percent of the inaccurate gender language found in the TNIV is retained in the 2011 NIV; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has passed a similar resolution concerning the TNIV in 2002; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 14-15, 2011 express profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House for this inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage pastors to make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the 2011 NIV; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.
Online Source

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An absolutely impossible task...

"The fundamental fault of the modern Church is that she is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task--she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentance. Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin."

- J. Gresham Machen from Christianity and Liberalism

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sunday's Sermons

Church of the Saviour was blessed by two wonderful sermons on Sunday. In our morning services Dr. Julius Kim of Westminster Seminary California preached a sermon entitled "Gospel Pilgrim: Rock of Ages" taken from Exodus 17:1-7.

In our evening service, Matt Eusey, our new Pastor of Disciple-Making preached a sermon entitled "The Righteous, The Sinner, and Jesus" taken from Luke 19:1-10.

Grateful for the way God used these two brothers to bless us.

Hath God Said?

Many years have passed since the serpent deceived the woman. His work, however, continues. And, as you will notice, the deception often seems so plausible; so positive.

The following video is an exercise in how to completely undermine the Word of God while professing to love it.

When the Gospel Drives the Church (pt. 1)

In the days ahead I will be posting some articles based upon my message and vision presentation on Vision Day at Church of the Saviour.

When the Gospel drives the church:

1. God’s glory becomes our chief end and highest value.
Perhaps the first issue we should settle is whether or not we can be sure that God’s glory ought to be our chief end.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said, “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father who is in Heaven,…” (Matt 6:9ff). These words are not just a sensible prelude to a generic prayer. Notice that Jesus directs our attention heavenward. This is not “Our Father” the invisible helper. This is not “Our Father” the kindly, magical grandfather. This is the glorious Creator and King of the Universe. This is the One encircled by praise from all the inhabitants of heaven. Even now the Father is surrounded by strange and holy beings who call out day and night, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come!” (Rev 4:8). In teaching us to pray, Jesus invites us to begin by acknowledging what all of heaven already recognizes about his matchless worth.

The second clause in Jesus’ prayer is, “hallowed be your name.” Jesus invites us to pray that God’s name will be recognized throughout the world as holy. In other words, Jesus is saying, “When you pray, what ought to be uppermost in your mind is that God’s name be hallowed, revered, reverenced in all the earth.” And when Jesus says, “hallowed by your name” he is using the word “name” as a summation of all the perfections of God. We are to pray that God, in the totality of his being will be recognized and praised for being holy.

In Ephesians 1 we read that God’s purpose in election is His glory: “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace…” (Ephesians 1:5-6). In other words, the reason for God’s election of His people before the foundations of the world (Eph 1:4) is that He might be praised for His glorious grace. Certainly there are innumerable blessings that accrue to the people of God because of the Father’s electing grace. But the chief end of God’s gracious saving of His people is His own glory.

How does Jesus motivate us toward greater obedience? “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). This same theme is echoed in 1 Peter 2:12 where we are told to keep our conduct before pagans pure so that the day will come when they too might glorify God. Paul sums it up nicely in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” No matter what we do, whether washing dishes, commuting to work, or declaring the Gospel; all these are to be gathered up for the purpose of magnifying the greatness of God.

The writers of the Westminster Catechism saw the priority or God’s glory throughout Scripture. What is more, they understood the interconnectedness of the glory of God and the joy of mankind. The first question of the Catechism is “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Treasuring the glory of God above all else guards us from the idolatry of self. We are to pursue the glory of God precisely because God is the highest good and chief treasure in the universe. We do not pursue the glory of God as our chief end because we imagine that God will then make us His chief end. John Piper rightly concludes, “Teaching God’s God-centeredness forces the issue of whether we treasure God because of his excellence or mainly because He endorses ours.” Stephen Nichols has written, “The glory of God is the compass that keeps all our theologizing, pastoring, and Christian living oriented in the right direction – toward God and not toward ourselves.”

So how does the Gospel drive this? How does the Gospel ensure that our chief end will be the glory of God? It begins with the fact that the Gospel is, above all, a God-glorifying reality. That is, the content of the good news, the dying and rising of Christ, is primarily about the glory of God. This is a necessary corrective for many of us raised in a brand of evangelicalism to think that we are the primary reason for the death and resurrection of Christ. We hear songs and sermons proclaiming that as Jesus hung upon the cross He was thinking of me “above all.” But is this true? I would suggest that this sentiment is a grave misunderstanding of Jesus’ primary motive in dying for sinners.

In what Martin Luther called the chief place in all the Bible (Romans 3:21-26), we learn that Jesus died to vindicate the righteousness of God.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Before He died for sinners, Jesus died for the Father. He died to show forth God’s righteousness because in His patience with the sins of His saints under the Old Covenant, God opened himself up to the charge of injustice. “How could a holy God forgive such a one as David?” “How can a righteous and just God forgive such a duplicitous man as Jacob?” Over and over again these challenges to God’s character could be raised. But the cross answers all these challenges. For it was on the cross that God punished the sins of all His people, past, present, and future. This is why Paul tells us that in the Gospel, “the righteousness of God” is made known.

God put forth His Son as a propitiation (a substitutionary sacrifice satisfying his wrath) in order to “show His righteousness.” God crucified His Son in order to remain just even as He chose to be the justifier of sinners.

Do not misunderstand. Jesus certainly died for sinners. He was crucified and raised that sinners might live. But even this is a means toward the greater end of magnifying the glory of the One who saves sinners through the sacrifice of His beloved Son.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) The fruit of God’s redeeming work through Christ, to make for himself a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, was ultimately for the purpose of showing forth His glorious light. God saved us for the sake of His praise. He saved us for the magnification of His glory.

The Gospel communicates just how good God is, not how good we are. The Gospel shows off the righteousness of God, not the value of man. The Gospel puts on display the holiness of God who will not fail to judge the unrighteous and the merciful God who saves the unrighteous at the cost of His own Son. The Gospel is saturated with the glory of God and therefore Gospel people will have about them the aroma of God’s glory. Gospel people will love the glory of God. Therefore, a church that is driven by the Gospel will treasure above all else the magnification of the greatness of God for that is what the Gospel does.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Michael Horton on "Love Wins"

Michael Horton is one of our brightest theologians. Recently Dr. Horton lectured on Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins." Check it out HERE.

Marriage is not whatever we want it to be...

Robert George, Sherif Gergis, and Ryan T. Anderson make the case against same-sex marriage.

God's Mission and the mission of His people...

From a message by Michael Horton:

Our mission is qualitatively different from God's mission. God sends us on a mission, but it's a different mission than the mission he sent his Son on. It's different from the mission he sent his Spirit on. The Son could redeem the world. We can't. Again, loose talk—loose talk in the Church today about our redeeming activity in the world. WE should never, ever sully that wonderful word by saddling it to us as the subject of the verb. When it comes to redeeming anything, we are not the subject of the action. Jesus Christ is. Jesus is the unique, only, exclusive Redeemer of the world.

"Well, we're extending his redemption." No, we're not. There is no extension. He accomplished it once and for all. "Well, we are extensions of his incarnation." No, we're not. We're members of his body. I wasn't born of a virgin. I didn't suffer under Pontius Pilate. I wasn't crucified. I wasn't raised on the third day.

We preach not ourselves but Christ, and we are his ambassadors! Paul says, "Let's get that right. We are not the message. We're the messengers." So our mission is qualitatively different from God's. But because he finished his mission in his Son—his mission of redeeming—and he sent his Spirit to open the hearts of those to whom we speak, we have a mission that is guaranteed success.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Preaching through the New Testament

John MacArthur has been the pastor of Grace Community Church since 1969. The most distinguishing characteristic of MacArthur's long ministry is his commitment to biblical exposition.

Last Sunday (June 5, 2011) marked a significant milestone in the life of Grace Church. John MacArthur finished preaching through the entire New Testament. I am unaware of any other preacher in modern church history who has accomphlished a similar project. Keep in mind that MacArthur does not rush through books of the Bible.

He completed his journey through the New Testament by preaching through Mark's Gospel. You can listen to the final sermon in that series HERE.

Also, on the previous Sunday evening, Pastor MacArthur held a Q & A with the congregation. He answers questions concerning his completion of the New Testament as well as general questions about his ministry. It is worth listening to.

Repenting of "Snark"

So, I am minding my own business, catching up on a few blogs I like to read and God hits me square in the middle of my sinful heart.

The following is from a post by Tim Keller:

I have always found Jesus’ words in Matt 5:21-22 to be shattering. He begins by reminding his listeners that anyone who murders will be judged. But then he gives three case studies of actions that seem far less serious than murder. “I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” To be bitter and angry in your heart toward someone can lead to great evil, so that makes some sense. But the term "raca" means only something like "you air-head!" and the word translated "fool" is likewise not an outrageous or cutting insult. Jesus’ listeners would likely have been smiling as they heard these terms and would have been shocked as he ended the sentence threatening them with hell-fire! What was Jesus’ point? “The deliberate paradox of Jesus’ pronouncement is that ordinary insults may betray an attitude of contempt which God takes extremely seriously.” (R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 201)

While I do not go around calling people "fool" I find substitutes. For the most part, I sin this way in the privacy of my mind, which, as Jesus teaches us is no refuge. But I also know the sinful satisfaction of using my words to inflict pain on someone who, in my mind, has harmed me. Certainly there are times when harsh words are appropriate. The prophets, the apostles, and Jesus Himself used harsh words of rebuke when the situation called for it. However, there is a huge difference between rebuking a scoffer and using words to inflict pain as an end in itself.

It is for the later that I must repent. It is for the later that I must keep a constant watch over my heart and tongue.

All leaders, and especially Christian leaders, must be on guard against this inevitable temptation and this terrible sin. It is natural, when under criticism, to shield your heart from pain by belittling the critics in your mind. “You stupid idiots.” Even if you don’t speak outwardly to people like Moses did, you do so inwardly. That will lead to self-absorption, self-pity, maybe even delusions of grandeur, but the great sin is that the growth of inner disdain leads to pride and a loss of humble reliance on God’s grace. Moses treated God with contempt when he became contemptuous toward his people.

This is what leaders face. Is there any hope for us? Yes, because we are in a better position than Moses was for understanding the grace of God. Don Carson writes: “In light of 1 Corinthians 10:4, which shows Christ to be the antitype of the rock, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the reason God had insisted the rock be struck in Exodus 17:1–7, and forbids it here, is that he perceives a wonderful opportunity to make a symbol-laden point: the ultimate Rock, from whom life-giving streams flow, is struck once, and no more.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When the big tent gets too big...

Al Mohler's latest post has me thinking about evangelicalism's tendency to not guard its boundaries very well.

1. The enemy never tires of sneaking heresy into the church.

In his post, Mohler comments on the new book "Is God a Christian?" by R. Kirby Godsey. It is a rehash of tired old heresies. Godsey denies the deity of Christ and embraces radical pluralism, the idea that all religions lead to God. What makes this interesting is that Godsey is a Southern Baptist. In fact he was the president of Mercer University, the largest Southern Baptist entity in the state of Georgia (and that's saying something!).

Doctrine is glorious for a number of reasons. When we talk about "doctrine" we are talking about that which God has revealed to us in His Word about himself, creation, and his work of redemption through Jesus. For these reasons, doctrine is precious and must be carefully taught and guarded.

Godsey, on the other hand is suspicious of doctrine. For him, doctrine is divisive, an unnecessary throwback to a bygone era. "Doctrines are simply the residue of religious experience."

2. Heresy is progressive.

Godsey did not begin writing heresy as egregious as that found in his latest book. His errors were progressive. We see the progressiveness of heresy throughout church history. We see it in our own day as well whether we are talking about Rob Bell or Brian Maclaren. What begin as seemingly small errors, if left uncorrected, will often blossom in full-blown heresy. All that is required are pastors and elders who, although orthodox themselves, fail to protect the church from encroaching errors.

3. "Big Tent" evangelicalism is usually too big.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed to allow moderates within the Southern Baptist Convention to organize and fund their own missionaries and institutions. They found the theological conservatism which had come to characterize the Southern Baptist Convention beginning in the mid-1980's was too small a tent. Before long however it was clear that the boundaries of the CBF tent were quite wide. They refused to make any statements regarding homosexuality or abortion. They also rejected notions of biblical inerrancy. They began to give voice to feminist and other forms of liberation theology. They gave voice to those who denied the substitutionary nature of Christ's atonement. And it has only gotten worse.

4. "Moderates" tend not to remain moderate.
As Mohler points out, the "moderate" Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is hosting a book signing by Godsey.

Though Godsey’s views are not representative of most SBC “moderates” who opposed the conservative redirection and recovery of the denomination, Godsey and his heresies have yet to be repudiated.

To the contrary, Kirby Godsey has been a major figure in moderate Baptist life. His leadership at Mercer University was championed and fiercely defended by the moderate establishment, and this book is published by Mercer University Press. Godsey is credited with envisioning what became the New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta in 2008, largely convened by former President Jimmy Carter. An event celebrating the book, complete with a book signing, is scheduled for the upcoming meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Tampa, Florida.

So-called "moderates" tend not to stay moderate for very long.

5. The conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention was a blessing.
Had the Southern Baptist Convention not turned away from the liberal direction of its institutions, it would be a spiritually desolate organization much like the Disciples of Christ or American Baptists.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Anthony Weiner and the lie of the public/private divide

Doug Wilson sees the Anthony Weiner, ahem, situation as a sign of God's providential good humor. Indeed, he wonders how atheists can maintain their disbelief in the face of such a clearly crafted comedy of fools.

He goes on to refer to his friendly sparring partner Christopher Hitchens' article on the Weiner affair.

I resolved to do something in the morning to chide Christopher. "Do you really believe that this sketch had no writer?" Thus far last night.

Then I wake up this morning and run across this. Now a word of caution before you click. This is a witty atheist writing on a bawdy subject, and so beware. Okay, now you can click if you want.

Hitchens asks how it came about that Edwards and Weiner lost control of their private parts. Contra his answer, the real answer is that these men are products of our civilization, and our whole civilization has lost control of their private parts. This has happened because we have listened to men like Hitchens, allowing them to reassure us that we can dispense with God and still have honesty and integrity, whatever the hell those are. But that thin veneer argument is for public consumption, so that the dullards and rubes might be satisfied, while the bright students, who understand the real implications of "no God" choose one of two paths. As Muggeridge once noted somewhere, the two alternatives are the raised fist or the raised phallus. If there is no God, it is either rutting or revolution.

Moreover, our incoherent absolutizing of the secular/sacred divide has resulted in a downstream hardening of the private/public divide, as exemplified in Weiner's tearful mea culpa yesterday. He wants the voters to know that when it comes to this public sphere over here, he is a man of integrity, who would never knowingly violate a House rule, or an oath of office, whatever, but who, when it comes to the private sphere over there, and the private parts contained therein, he is a liar, skunk, and inept Twitterer. But who would buy an arbitrary division like that? Well, a lot of people. This technique doesn't work all the time, but it works way more than it ought to.

But then the relativists rush in to tell us, as they did in the Clinton affair, that it is about sex, and that everyone lies about sex. But wasn't the new rule that brought in this flood of promiscuity and dissapation a rule predicated upon the assumption that this kind of approach was natural, healthy, honest, and free? Isn't that what undergirds the open discussion of all sex ed classes? Well, not exactly. After a generation or two of open, natural, and honest communication about sex, we now have a generation of liars, skulking around the subject in such a way as to make it proverbial among the liberals -- everyone lies about sex. So, I might say to them, you are admitting the failure of your program then? No, they won't do that either.

Read the entire article HERE.

Our determination to be biblical

The market-driven philosophy of user-friendly churches does not easily permit them to take firm enough doctrinal positions to oppose false teaching. Their outlook on leadership drives them to hire marketers who can sell rather than biblically qualified pastors who can teach. Their approach to ministry is so undoctrinal that they cannot educate their people against subtle errors. Their avoidance of controversy puts them in a position where they cannot oppose false teaching that masquerades as evangelicalism.

In fact, the new trends in theology seem ideally suited to the user-friendly philosophy. Why would the user-friendly church oppose such doctrines?

But oppose them we must, if we are to remain true to God's Word and maintain a gospel witness. Pragmatic approaches to ministry do not hold answers to the dangers confronting biblical Christianity today. Pragmatism promises bigger churches, more people, and a living church, but it is really carnal wisdom--spiritually bankrupt and contrary to the Word of God.

Marketing techniques offer nothing but the promise of popularity and worldly approval. They certainly offer no safeguard against the dangers of the down-grade toward spiritual ruin.

The only hope is a return to Scripture and sound doctrine. We evangelicals desperately need to recover our determination to be biblical, our refusal to comply with the world, our willingness to defend what we believe, and our courage to defy false teaching. Unless we collectively awaken to the current dangers that threaten our faith, the adversary will attack us from within, and we will not be able to withstand.
- John MacArthur
online source

Summer Reading

My plan is to add the following to my current reading list for this summer. I have already started on the two biographies. Great stuff.

Truman by David McCullough

John MacArthur by Iain Murray

The U Turn Church by Harney & Bouwer

NEXT Audio

The audio from the Next Conference is now available.

God on the World: The Bible’s Framework for a Christian Worldview
Jeff Purswell

Think or Believe? The Role of Reason in the Life of Faith
Scott Oliphint

The Gospel and the Postmodern Mind
D.A. Carson

The Reality of Truth in a World of Relativism
R.C. Sproul

Who am I? Humanity in the Eyes of the World and the Christian
Kevin DeYoung

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday was Church of the Saviour's annual Vision Day. We had a wonderful time fixing our eyes once again on the church's God-honoring Gospel mission.

I preached a message entitled When the Gospel Drives the Church. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Friday, June 3, 2011

New from Derek Thomas

A Voyage of Discovery: The Ups and Downs of the Christian Life

In his latest book Derek Thomas invites us not just read but engage, or better, be engaged by God's powerful Word. Specifically, Dr. Thomas, like a faithful pastor, takes the reader deep into 15 "Psalms of Ascent" (Psalms 120-134). This helpful volume is also a journal inviting the reader to write down observations and applications.

"The psalms, with their kaleidoscopic expression of human emotions, their deep roots in Christ, and their confidence in God even amidst the suffering of the fallen world, have been central to the lives of Christians for centuries. In this book, Derek Thomas works with the eye of a theologian and the heart of a pastor, to bring them to bear on the lives of every believer. Here one will find a realistic understanding of life in this world, with its pain, frustrations, and passing joys, and a deep vision of the Lord Jesus Christ and his coming kingdom. A book that should re-energise all who read it."
— Carl Trueman,
Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, Westminster Theological

‘Derek Thomas is a reliable, widely-respected, long-experienced student of Scripture and the spiritual life, a pastor of Christ’s sheep, a scholar, a theologian and a teacher of theological students. So here is a clinician of the soul who can be trusted to give reliable guidance and solid biblical wisdom.’
- Sinclair B. Ferguson, From the foreword.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More on John Piper's interview with Rick Warren

Last week I posted John Piper's long-awaited interview with Rick Warren. Many people have responded positively to the demonstration of brotherly love and camaraderie displayed by the two men. Indeed, these are two men who clearly love Jesus and hold each other in high esteem.

Anyone familiar with the ministries of Dr. Piper and Pastor Warren understand the enormous differences between the two. During the interview Piper made mention of that. However, I was more than a little confused by the seeming unity the men shared in theological perspective. If all your knowledge of Rick Warren was this interview you could reasonably conclude that he was ready for ordination in the OPC.

And herein lies my problem with the interview. It is, in my opinion, an example of Rick Warren contextualizing himself. That is, from time-to-time he seems to altar his views, influences, and stated priorities to fit the situation in which he finds himself. Please understand. I am not attacking Pastor Warren. I don't think he would disagree with my assessment. In one context he takes up the mantle of Charles Finney. In another context he is a newer Robert Schuller (Read the pieces Rick wrote for Ladies Home Journal - They are not the outworking of the theology espoused in the interview.). In the Piper interview Pastor Warren is the theological heir of Johnathan Edwards. So, which is it? It certainly cannot be all of the above.

Like his practice of using various Bible paraphrases and his sometimes exotic application of Scriptures Pastor Warren seems to fit himself for whatever context in which he appears. Just as John Piper's practice of ministry is a reflection of his theological convictions, so too is Warren's.

Perhaps I am being too critical. I don't mean to be. I am not one of those who believe Rick Warren is the anti-Christ or the worst thing to ever happen to the church. But I remain deeply concerned about many of the things Rick Warren has written, preached, and taught. I am also reminded of the biblical warning that those of us who are set apart for the ministry of the Word will incur a stricter judgment.

The following are two men's "take" on the interview:
Tim Challies
Timmy Brister

The battle is joined...

Carl Trueman cannot tolerate emoticons. They represent the loss of language, the Roman war against the Protestant church, and the destruction of manhood.

Just a note on emoticons. You shouldn't use them:

1. Real men don't use them. In fact, not even Paul Levy uses them. They are thus part of the feminization of the church.
2. People who have a decent command of the English language and are able to express themselves using those old fashioned things, words and sentences, have no need of them -- even those permanently restricted by force of habit to only 120 characters. Just work harder. You have a great language; please use it. They are thus part of the increasing intellectual laziness of the church.
3. They represent a regression to a pre-Reformation theology of communication whereby image trumps words. I believe they were actually invented by Cardinal Walter Kasper who sent the first one in an email to John Paul II. They are thus part of an ongoing surreptitious and deadly Romanization of the Protestant church.
4. As I said earlier, real men don't use them. Hard to stress that one enough. So shave off the soul patch, ditch the triple iced moccawhateverlatte with whipped cream, close down that urban church plant you set up next to American Eagle Outfitters, pour the zinfandel down the sink, stop crying at pictures of puppies with wounded paws and -- above all -- delete those emoticons.

Anyone interested in joining a pitchfork wielding mob to address this issue?
Amen and amen!

Iain Murray's Biography of John MacArthur

John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock by Iain Murray is now available at WTSbooks for $18.30 (30% off).

When I started in ministry, I committed myself to expository preaching, just explaining the Bible, because I knew that there was nothing I could say that was anywhere near as important as what God had to say.
- John MacArthur

The real drama...

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as 'a bad press.' We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine - 'dull dogma,' as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man - and the dogma is the drama.
- Dorothy Sayers

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

No unimportant doctrines

"Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith."
- J. Gresham Machen

Take time to read Al Mohler's helpful essay A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity.